Poem – Housewife

Some women marry houses.
It’s another kind of skin; it has a heart,
a mouth, a liver and bowel movements.
The walls are permanent and pink.
See how she sits on her knees all day,
faithfully washing herself down.
Men enter by force, drawn back like Jonah
into their fleshy mothers.
A woman is her mother.
That’s the main thing.

Poem – Menstruation At Forty


I was thinking of a son.
The womb is not a clock
nor a bell tolling,
but in the eleventh month of its life
I feel the November
of the body as well as of the calendar.
In two days it will be my birthday
and as always the earth is done with its harvest.
This time I hunt for death,
the night I lean toward,
the night I want.
Well then—
speak of it!
It was in the womb all along.

I was thinking of a son …
You! The never acquired,
the never seeded or unfastened,
you of the genitals I feared,
the stalk and the puppy’s breath.
Will I give you my eyes or his?
Will you be the David or the Susan?
(Those two names I picked and listened for.)
Can you be the man your fathers are—
the leg muscles from Michelangelo,
hands from Yugoslavia
somewhere the peasant, Slavic and determined,
somewhere the survivor bulging with life—
and could it still be possible,
all this with Susan’s eyes?

All this without you—
two days gone in blood.
I myself will die without baptism,
a third daughter they didn’t bother.
My death will come on my name day.
What’s wrong with the name day?
It’s only an angel of the sun.
weaving a web over your own,
a thin and tangled poison.
bad spider—

My death from the wrists,
two name tags,
blood worn like a corsage
to bloom
one on the left and one on the right—
It’s a warm room,
the place of the blood.
Leave the door open on its hinges!

Two days for your death
and two days until mine.

Love! That red disease—
year after year, David, you would make me wild!
David! Susan! David! David!
full and disheveled, hissing into the night,
never growing old,
waiting always for you on the porch …
year after year,
my carrot, my cabbage,
I would have possessed you before all women,
calling your name,
calling you mine.

Poem – Mother and Daughter

Linda, you are leaving
your old body now,
It lies flat, an old butterfly,
all arm, all leg, all wing,
loose as an old dress.
I reach out toward it but
my fingers turn to cankers
and I am motherwarm and used,
just as your childhood is used.
Question you about this
and you hold up pearls.
Question you about this
and you pass by armies.
Question you about this –
you with your big clock going,
its hands wider than jackstraws –
and you’ll sew up a continent.
Now that you are eighteen
I give you my booty, my spoils,
my Mother & Co. and my ailments.
Question you about this
and you’ll not know the answer –
the muzzle at the oxygen,
the tubes, the pathways,
the war and the war’s vomit.
Keep on, keep on, keep on,
carrying keepsakes to the boys,
carrying powders to the boys,
carrying, my Linda, blood to
the bloodletter.
Linda, you are leaving
your old body now.
You’ve picked my pocket clean
and you’ve racked up all my
poker chips and left me empty
and, as the river between us
narrows, you do calisthenics,
that womanly leggy semaphore.
Question you about this
and you will sew me a shroud
and hold up Monday’s broiler
and thumb out the chicken gut.
Question you about this
and you will see my death
drooling at these gray lips
while you, my burglar, will eat
fruit and pass the time of day.

Poem – The Frog Prince

Frau Doktor,
Mama Brundig,
take out your contacts,
remove your wig.
I write for you.
I entertain.
But frogs come out
of the sky like rain.

Frogs arrive
With an ugly fury.
You are my judge.
You are my jury.

My guilts are what
we catalogue.
I’ll take a knife
and chop up frog.

Frog has not nerves.
Frog is as old as a cockroach.
Frog is my father’s genitals.
Frog is a malformed doorknob.
Frog is a soft bag of green.

The moon will not have him.
The sun wants to shut off
like a light bulb.
At the sight of him
the stone washes itself in a tub.
The crow thinks he’s an apple
and drops a worm in.
At the feel of frog
the touch-me-nots explode
like electric slugs.
Slime will have him.
Slime has made him a house.

Mr. Poison
is at my bed.
He wants my sausage.
He wants my bread.

Mama Brundig,
he wants my beer.
He wants my Christ
for a souvenir.

Frog has boil disease
and a bellyful of parasites.
He says: Kiss me. Kiss me.
And the ground soils itself.

should a certain
quite adorable princess
be walking in her garden
at such a time
and toss her golden ball
up like a bubble
and drop it into the well?
It was ordained.
Just as the fates deal out
the plague with a tarot card.
Just as the Supreme Being drills
holes in our skulls to let
the Boston Symphony through.

But I digress.
A loss has taken place.
The ball has sunk like a cast-iron pot
into the bottom of the well.

Lost, she said,
my moon, my butter calf,
my yellow moth, my Hindu hare.
Obviously it was more than a ball.
Balls such as these are not
for sale in Au Bon Marché.
I took the moon, she said,
between my teeth
and now it is gone
and I am lost forever.
A thief had robbed by day.

Suddenly the well grew
thick and boiling
and a frog appeared.
His eyes bulged like two peas
and his body was trussed into place.
Do not be afraid, Princess,
he said, I am not a vagabond,
a cattle farmer, a shepherd,
a doorkeeper, a postman
or a laborer.
I come to you as a tradesman.
I have something to sell.
Your ball, he said,
for just three things.
Let me eat from your plate.
Let me drink from your cup.
Let me sleep in your bed.
She thought, Old Waddler,
those three you will never do,
but she made the promises
with hopes for her ball once more.
He brought it up in his mouth
like a tricky old dog
and she ran back to the castle
leaving the frog quite alone.

That evening at dinner time
a knock was heard on the castle door
and a voice demanded:
King’s youngest daughter,
let me in. You promised;
now open to me.
I have left the skunk cabbage
and the eels to live with you.
The kind then heard her promise
and forced her to comply.

The frog first sat on her lap.
He was as awful as an undertaker.
Next he was at her plate
looking over her bacon
and calves’ liver.
We will eat in tandem,
he said gleefully.
Her fork trembled
as if a small machine
had entered her.
He sat upon the liver
and partook like a gourmet.
The princess choked
as if she were eating a puppy.
From her cup he drank.
It wasn’t exactly hygienic.
From her cup she drank
as if it were Socrates’ hemlock.

Next came the bed.
The silky royal bed.
Ah! The penultimate hour!
There was the pillow
with the princess breathing
and there was the sinuous frog
riding up and down beside her.
I have been lost in a river
of shut doors, he said,
and I have made my way over
the wet stones to live with you.
She woke up aghast.
I suffer for birds and fireflies
but not frogs, she said,
and threw him across the room.

Like a genie coming out of a samovar,
a handsome prince arose in the
corner of her bedroom.
He had kind eyes and hands
and was a friend of sorrow.
Thus they were married.
After all he had compromised her.

He hired a night watchman
so that no one could enter the chamber
and he had the well
boarded over so that
never again would she lose her ball,
that moon, that Krishna hair,
that blind poppy, that innocent globe,
that madonna womb.

Poem – The Gold Key

The speaker in this case
is a middle-aged witch, me-
tangled on my two great arms,
my face in a book
and my mouth wide,
ready to tell you a story or two.
I have come to remind you,
all of you:
Alice, Samuel, Kurt, Eleanor,
Jane, Brian, Maryel,
all of you draw near.
at fifty-six do you remember?
Do you remember when you
were read to as a child?
at twenty-two have you forgotten?
Forgotten the ten P.M. dreams
where the wicked king
went up in smoke?
Are you comatose?
Are you undersea?
my dears,
let me present to you this boy.
He is sixteen and he wants some answers.
He is each of us.
I mean you.
I mean me.
It is not enough to read Hesse
and drink clam chowder
we must have the answers.
The boy has found a gold key
and he is looking for what it will open.
This boy!
Upon finding a string
he would look for a harp.
Therefore he holds the key tightly.
Its secrets whimper
like a dog in heat.
He turns the key.
It opens this book of odd tales
which transform the Brothers Grimm.
As if an enlarged paper clip
could be a piece of sculpture.
(And it could.)

Poem – Ghosts

Some ghosts are women,
neither abstract nor pale,
their breasts as limp as killed fish.
Not witches, but ghosts
who come, moving their useless arms
like forsaken servants.

Not all ghosts are women,
I have seen others;
fat, white-bellied men,
wearing their genitals like old rags.
Not devils, but ghosts.
This one thumps barefoot, lurching
above my bed.

But that isn’t all.
Some ghosts are children.
Not angels, but ghosts;
curling like pink tea cups
on any pillow, or kicking,
showing their innocent bottoms, wailing
for Lucifer.

Poem – Earthworm

Slim inquirer, while the old fathers sleep
you are reworking their soil, you have
a grocery store there down under the earth
and it is well stocked with broken wine bottles,
old cigars, old door knobs and earth,
that great brown flour that you kiss each day.
There are dark stars in the cool evening and
you fondle them like killer birds’ beaks.
But what I want to know is why when small boys
dig you up for curiosity and cut you in half
why each half lives and crawls away as if whole.
Have you no beginning and end? Which heart is
the real one? Which eye the seer? Why
is it in the infinite plan that you would
be severed and rise from the dead like a gargoyle
with two heads?

Poem – Room of my Life

in the room of my life
the objects keep changing.
Ashtrays to cry into,
the suffering brother of the wood walls,
the forty-eight keys of the typewriter
each an eyeball that is never shut,
the books, each a contestant in a beauty contest,
the black chair, a dog coffin made of Naugahyde,
the sockets on the wall
waiting like a cave of bees,
the gold rug
a conversation of heels and toes,
the fireplace
a knife waiting for someone to pick it up,
the sofa, exhausted with the exertion of a whore,
the phone
two flowers taking root in its crotch,
the doors
opening and closing like sea clams,
the lights
poking at me,
lighting up both the soil and the laugh.
The windows,
the starving windows
that drive the trees like nails into my heart.
Each day I feed the world out there
although birds explode
right and left.
I feed the world in here too,
offering the desk puppy biscuits.
However, nothing is just what it seems to be.
My objects dream and wear new costumes,
compelled to, it seems, by all the words in my hands
and the sea that bangs in my throat.

Poem – Flee on your Donkey

Because there was no other place
to flee to,
I came back to the scene of the disordered senses,
came back last night at midnight,
arriving in the thick June night
without luggage or defenses,
giving up my car keys and my cash,
keeping only a pack of Salem cigarettes
the way a child holds on to a toy.
I signed myself in where a stranger
puts the inked-in X’s—
for this is a mental hospital,
not a child’s game.

Today an intern knocks my knees,
testing for reflexes.
Once I would have winked and begged for dope.
Today I am terribly patient.
Today crows play black-jack
on the stethoscope.

Everyone has left me
except my muse,
that good nurse.
She stays in my hand,
a mild white mouse.

The curtains, lazy and delicate,
billow and flutter and drop
like the Victorian skirts
of my two maiden aunts
who kept an antique shop.

Hornets have been sent.
They cluster like floral arrangements on the screen.
Hornets, dragging their thin stingers,
hover outside, all knowing,
hissing: the hornet knows.
I heard it as a child
but what was it that he meant?
The hornet knows!
What happened to Jack and Doc and Reggy?
Who remembers what lurks in the heart of man?
What did The Green Hornet mean, he knows?
Or have I got it wrong?
Is it The Shadow who had seen
me from my bedside radio?

Now it’s Dinn, Dinn, Dinn!
while the ladies in the next room argue
and pick their teeth.
Upstairs a girl curls like a snail;
in another room someone tries to eat a shoe;
meanwhile an adolescent pads up and down
the hall in his white tennis socks.
A new doctor makes rounds
advertising tranquilizers, insulin, or shock
to the uninitiated.

Six years of such small preoccupations!
Six years of shuttling in and out of this place!
O my hunger! My hunger!
I could have gone around the world twice
or had new children – all boys.
It was a long trip with little days in it
and no new places.

In here,
it’s the same old crowd,
the same ruined scene.
The alcoholic arrives with his gold clubs.
The suicide arrives with extra pills sewn
into the lining of her dress.
The permanent guests have done nothing new.
Their faces are still small
like babies with jaundice.

they carried out my mother,
wrapped like somebody’s doll, in sheets,
bandaged her jaw and stuffed up her holes.
My father, too. He went out on the rotten blood
he used up on other women in the Middle West.
He went out, a cured old alcoholic
on crooked feet and useless hands.
He went out calling for his father
who died all by himself long ago –
that fat banker who got locked up,
his genes suspended like dollars,
wrapped up in his secret,
tied up securely in a straitjacket.

But you, my doctor, my enthusiast,
were better than Christ;
you promised me another world
to tell me who
I was.

I spent most of my time,
a stranger,
damned and in trance—that little hut,
that naked blue-veined place,
my eyes shut on the confusing office,
eyes circling into my childhood,
eyes newly cut.
Years of hints
strung out—a serialized case history—
thirty-three years of the same dull incest
that sustained us both.
You, my bachelor analyst,
who sat on Marlborough Street,
sharing your office with your mother
and giving up cigarettes each New Year,
were the new God,
the manager of the Gideon Bible.

I was your third-grader
with a blue star on my forehead.
In trance I could be any age,
voice, gesture—all turned backward
like a drugstore clock.
Awake, I memorized dreams.
Dreams came into the ring
like third string fighters,
each one a bad bet
who might win
because there was no other.

I stared at them,
concentrating on the abyss
the way one looks down into a rock quarry,
uncountable miles down,
my hands swinging down like hooks
to pull dreams up out of their cage.
O my hunger! My hunger!

Once, outside your office,
I collapsed in the old-fashioned swoon
between the illegally parked cars.
I threw myself down,
pretending dead for eight hours.
I thought I had died
into a snowstorm.
Above my head
chains cracked along like teeth
digging their way through the snowy street.
I lay there
like an overcoat
that someone had thrown away.
You carried me back in,
awkwardly, tenderly,
with help of the red-haired secretary
who was built like a lifeguard.
My shoes,
I remember,
were lost in the snowbank
as if I planned never to walk again.

That was the winter
that my mother died,
half mad on morphine,
blown up, at last,
like a pregnant pig.
I was her dreamy evil eye.
In fact,
I carried a knife in my pocketbook—
my husband’s good L. L. Bean hunting knife.
I wasn’t sure if I should slash a tire
or scrape the guts out of some dream.

You taught me
to believe in dreams;
thus I was the dredger.
I held them like an old woman with arthritic fingers,
carefully straining the water out—
sweet dark playthings,
and above all, mysterious
until they grew mournful and weak.
O my hunger! My hunger!
I was the one
who opened the warm eyelid
like a surgeon
and brought forth young girls
to grunt like fish.

I told you,
I said—
but I was lying—
that the knife was for my mother . . .
and then I delivered her.

The curtains flutter out
and slump against the bars.
They are my two thin ladies
named Blanche and Rose.
The grounds outside
are pruned like an estate at Newport.
Far off, in the field,
something yellow grows.

Was it last month or last year
that the ambulance ran like a hearse
with its siren blowing on suicide—
Dinn, dinn, dinn!—
a noon whistle that kept insisting on life
all the way through the traffic lights?

I have come back
but disorder is not what it was.
I have lost the trick of it!
The innocence of it!
That fellow-patient in his stovepipe hat
with his fiery joke, his manic smile—
even he seems blurred, small and pale.
I have come back,
fastened to the wall like a bathroom plunger,
held like a prisoner
who was so poor
he fell in love with jail.

I stand at this old window
complaining of the soup,
examining the grounds,
allowing myself the wasted life.
Soon I will raise my face for a white flag,
and when God enters the fort,
I won’t spit or gag on his finger.
I will eat it like a white flower.
Is this the old trick, the wasting away,
the skull that waits for its dose
of electric power?

This is madness
but a kind of hunger.
What good are my questions
in this hierarchy of death
where the earth and the stones go
Dinn! Dinn! Dinn!
It is hardly a feast.
It is my stomach that makes me suffer.

Turn, my hungers!
For once make a deliberate decision.
There are brains that rot here
like black bananas.
Hearts have grown as flat as dinner plates.

Anne, Anne,
flee on your donkey,
flee this sad hotel,
ride out on some hairy beast,
gallop backward pressing
your buttocks to his withers,
sit to his clumsy gait somehow.
Ride out
any old way you please!
In this place everyone talks to his own mouth.
That’s what it means to be crazy.
Those I loved best died of it—
the fool’s disease.

Poem – The Civil War

I am torn in two
but I will conquer myself.
I will dig up the pride.
I will take scissors
and cut out the beggar.
I will take a crowbar
and pry out the broken
pieces of God in me.
Just like a jigsaw puzzle,
I will put Him together again
with the patience of a chess player.

How many pieces?

It feels like thousands,
God dressed up like a whore
in a slime of green algae.
God dressed up like an old man
staggering out of His shoes.
God dressed up like a child,
all naked,
even without skin,
soft as an avocado when you peel it.
And others, others, others.

But I will conquer them all
and build a whole nation of God
in me – but united,
build a new soul,
dress it with skin
and then put on my shirt
and sing an anthem,
a song of myself.

Poem – Lessons in Hunger

‘Do you like me?’
I asked the blue blazer.
No answer.
Silence bounced out of his books.
Silence fell off his tongue
and sat between us
and clogged my throat.
It slaughtered my trust.
It tore cigarettes out of my mouth.
We exchanged blind words,
and I did not cry,
and I did not beg,
blackness lunged in my heart,
and something that had been good,
a sort of kindly oxygen,
turned into a gas oven.
Do you like me?
How absurd!
What’s a question like that?
What’s a silence like that?
And what am I hanging around for,
riddled with what his silence said?

Poem – The Addict – Anne Sexton



with capsules in my palms each night, 

eight at a time from sweet pharmaceutical bottles 

I make arrangements for a pint-sized journey. 

I’m the queen of this condition. 

I’m an expert on making the trip 

and now they say I’m an addict. 

Now they ask why. 

Don’t they know that I promised to die! 

I’m keping in practice. 

I’m merely staying in shape. 

The pills are a mother, but better, 

every color and as good as sour balls. 

I’m on a diet from death. 
Yes, I admit 

it has gotten to be a bit of a habit- 

blows eight at a time, socked in the eye, 

hauled away by the pink, the orange, 

the green and the white goodnights. 

I’m becoming something of a chemical 


that’s it! 
My supply 

of tablets 

has got to last for years and years. 

I like them more than I like me. 

It’s a kind of marriage. 

It’s a kind of war where I plant bombs inside 

of myself. 

I try 

to kill myself in small amounts, 

an innocuous occupatin. 

Actually I’m hung up on it. 

But remember I don’t make too much noise. 

And frankly no one has to lug me out 

and I don’t stand there in my winding sheet. 

I’m a little buttercup in my yellow nightie 

eating my eight loaves in a row 

and in a certain order as in 

the laying on of hands 

or the black sacrament. 
It’s a ceremony 

but like any other sport 

it’s full of rules. 

It’s like a musical tennis match where 

my mouth keeps catching the ball. 

Then I lie on; my altar 

elevated by the eight chemical kisses. 
What a lay me down this is 

with two pink, two orange, 

two green, two white goodnights. 


Now I’m borrowed. 

Now I’m numb.

Poem – Killing The Love -Anne Sexton 

I am the love killer, 

I am murdering the music we thought so special, 

that blazed between us, over and over. 

I am murdering me, where I kneeled at your kiss. 

I am pushing knives through the hands 

that created two into one. 

Our hands do not bleed at this, 

they lie still in their dishonor. 

I am taking the boats of our beds 

and swamping them, letting them cough on the sea 

and choke on it and go down into nothing. 

I am stuffing your mouth with your 

promises and watching 

you vomit them out upon my face. 

The Camp we directed? 

I have gassed the campers. 
Now I am alone with the dead, 

flying off bridges, 

hurling myself like a beer can into the wastebasket. 

I am flying like a single red rose, 

leaving a jet stream 

of solitude 

and yet I feel nothing, 

though I fly and hurl, 

my insides are empty 

and my face is as blank as a wall. 
Shall I call the funeral director? 

He could put our two bodies into one pink casket, 

those bodies from before, 

and someone might send flowers, 

and someone might come to mourn 

and it would be in the obits, 

and people would know that something died, 

is no more, speaks no more, won’t even 

drive a car again and all of that. 
When a life is over, 

the one you were living for, 

where do you go? 
I’ll work nights. 

I’ll dance in the city. 

I’ll wear red for a burning. 

I’ll look at the Charles very carefully, 

wearing its long legs of neon. 

And the cars will go by. 

The cars will go by. 

And there’ll be no scream 

from the lady in the red dress 

dancing on her own Ellis Island, 

who turns in circles, 

dancing alone 

as the cars go by.

Poem – Mother And Daughter – Anne Sextom 

Linda, you are leaving 

your old body now, 

It lies flat, an old butterfly, 

all arm, all leg, all wing, 

loose as an old dress. 

I reach out toward it but 

my fingers turn to cankers 

and I am motherwarm and used, 

just as your childhood is used. 

Question you about this 

and you hold up pearls. 

Question you about this 

and you pass by armies. 

Question you about this – 

you with your big clock going, 

its hands wider than jackstraws – 

and you’ll sew up a continent. 

Now that you are eighteen 

I give you my booty, my spoils, 

my Mother & Co. and my ailments. 

Question you about this 

and you’ll not know the answer – 

the muzzle at the oxygen, 

the tubes, the pathways, 

the war and the war’s vomit. 

Keep on, keep on, keep on, 

carrying keepsakes to the boys, 

carrying powders to the boys, 

carrying, my Linda, blood to 

the bloodletter. 

Linda, you are leaving 

your old body now. 

You’ve picked my pocket clean 

and you’ve racked up all my 

poker chips and left me empty 

and, as the river between us 

narrows, you do calisthenics, 

that womanly leggy semaphore. 

Question you about this 

and you will sew me a shroud 

and hold up Monday’s broiler 

and thumb out the chicken gut. 

Question you about this 

and you will see my death 

drooling at these gray lips 

while you, my burglar, will eat 

fruit and pass the time of day.

Poem – Ghosts – Anne Sexton

Some ghosts are women, 

neither abstract nor pale, 

their breasts as limp as killed fish. 

Not witches, but ghosts 

who come, moving their useless arms 

like forsaken servants. 
Not all ghosts are women, 

I have seen others; 

fat, white-bellied men, 

wearing their genitals like old rags. 

Not devils, but ghosts. 

This one thumps barefoot, lurching 

above my bed. 
But that isn’t all. 

Some ghosts are children. 

Not angels, but ghosts; 

curling like pink tea cups 

on any pillow, or kicking, 

showing their innocent bottoms, wailing 

for Lucifer.

Poem – The Big Heart  – Anne Sexton 

Big heart,

wide as a watermelon, 

but wise as birth, 

there is so much abundance 

in the people I have: 

Max, Lois, Joe, Louise, 

Joan, Marie, Dawn, 

Arlene, Father Dunne, 

and all in their short lives 

give to me repeatedly, 

in the way the sea 

places its many fingers on the shore, 

again and again 

and they know me, 

they help me unravel, 

they listen with ears made of conch shells, 

they speak back with the wine of the best region. 

They are my staff. 

They comfort me. 
They hear how 

the artery of my soul has been severed 

and soul is spurting out upon them, 

bleeding on them, 

messing up their clothes, 

dirtying their shoes. 

And God is filling me, 

though there are times of doubt 

as hollow as the Grand Canyon, 

still God is filling me. 

He is giving me the thoughts of dogs, 

the spider in its intricate web, 

the sun 

in all its amazement, 

and a slain ram 

that is the glory, 

the mystery of great cost, 

and my heart, 

which is very big, 

I promise it is very large, 

a monster of sorts, 

takes it all in— 

all in comes the fury of love.

Poem – The Breast – Anne Sexton

This is the key to it. 

This is the key to everything. 

I am worse than the gamekeeper’s children 

picking for dust and bread. 

Here I am drumming up perfume. 
Let me go down on your carpet, 

your straw mattress – whatever’s at hand 

because the child in me is dying, dying. 
It is not that I am cattle to be eaten. 

It is not that I am some sort of street. 

But your hands found me like an architect. 
Jugful of milk! It was yours years ago 

when I lived in the valley of my bones, 

bones dumb in the swamp. Little playthings. 
A xylophone maybe with skin 

stretched over it awkwardly. 

Only later did it become something real. 
Later I measured my size against movie stars. 

I didn’t measure up. Something between 

my shoulders was there. But never enough. 
Sure, there was a meadow, 

but no yound men singing the truth. 

Nothing to tell truth by. 
Ignorant of men I lay next to my sisters 

and rising out of the ashes I cried 

my sex will be transfixed! 
Now I am your mother, your daughter, your brand new thing – a snail, a nest. 

I am alive when your fingers are. 
I wear silk – the cover to uncover – 

because silk is what I want you to think of. 

But I dislike the cloth. It is too stern. 
So tell me anything but track me like a climber 

for here is the eye, here is the jewel, 

here is the excitement the nipple learns. 
I am unbalanced – but I am not mad with snow. 

I am mad the way young girls are mad, 

with an offering, an offering… 
I burn the way money burns.

Poem – The Civil War – Anne Sexton

I am torn in two 

but I will conquer myself. 

I will dig up the pride. 

I will take scissors 

and cut out the beggar. 

I will take a crowbar 

and pry out the broken 

pieces of God in me. 

Just like a jigsaw puzzle, 

I will put Him together again 

with the patience of a chess player. 
How many pieces? 
It feels like thousands, 

God dressed up like a whore 

in a slime of green algae. 

God dressed up like an old man 

staggering out of His shoes. 

God dressed up like a child, 

all naked, 

even without skin, 

soft as an avocado when you peel it. 

And others, others, others. 
But I will conquer them all 

and build a whole nation of God 

in me – but united, 

build a new soul, 

dress it with skin 

and then put on my shirt 

and sing an anthem, 

a song of myself.

Poem – Cigarettes And Whiskey And Wild, Wild Women – Anne Sexton

(from a song) 
Perhaps I was born kneeling, 

born coughing on the long winter, 

born expecting the kiss of mercy, 

born with a passion for quickness 

and yet, as things progressed, 

I learned early about the stockade 

or taken out, the fume of the enema. 

By two or three I learned not to kneel, 

not to expect, to plant my fires underground 

where none but the dolls, perfect and awful, 

could be whispered to or laid down to die. 
Now that I have written many words, 

and let out so many loves, for so many, 

and been altogether what I always was— 

a woman of excess, of zeal and greed, 

I find the effort useless. 

Do I not look in the mirror, 

these days, 

and see a drunken rat avert her eyes? 

Do I not feel the hunger so acutely 

that I would rather die than look 

into its face? 

I kneel once more, 

in case mercy should come 

in the nick of time.

Poem – Clothes – Anne Sexton

Put on a clean shirt

 before you die, some Russian said. 

Nothing with drool, please, 

no egg spots, no blood, 

no sweat, no sperm. 

You want me clean, God, 

so I’ll try to comply. 
The hat I was married in, 

will it do? 

White, broad, fake flowers in a tiny array. 

It’s old-fashioned, as stylish as a bedbug, 

but is suits to die in something nostalgic. 
And I’ll take 

my painting shirt 

washed over and over of course 

spotted with every yellow kitchen I’ve painted. 

God, you don’t mind if I bring all my kitchens? 

They hold the family laughter and the soup. 
For a bra 

(need we mention it?) , 

the padded black one that my lover 


when I took it off. 

He said, ‘Where’d it all go? ‘ 
And I’ll take 

the maternity skirt of my ninth month, 

a window for the love-belly 

that let each baby pop out like and apple, 

the water breaking in the restaurant, 

making a noisy house I’d like to die in. 
For underpants I’ll pick white cotton, 

the briefs of my childhood, 

for it was my mother’s dictum 

that nice girls wore only white cotton. 

If my mother had lived to see it 

she would have put a WANTED sign up in the 

post office 

for the black, the red, the blue I’ve worn. 

Still, it would be perfectly fine with me 

to die like a nice girl 

smelling of Clorox and Duz. 

Being sixteen-in-the-pants 

I would die full of questions.

Poem – Cinderella – Anne Sexton

You always read about it: 
the plumber with the twelve children 

who wins the Irish Sweepstakes. 

From toilets to riches. 

That story. 
Or the nursemaid, 

some luscious sweet from Denmark 

who captures the oldest son’s heart. 

from diapers to Dior. 

That story. 
Or a milkman who serves the wealthy, 

eggs, cream, butter, yogurt, milk, 

the white truck like an ambulance 

who goes into real estate 

and makes a pile. 

From homogenized to martinis at lunch. 
Or the charwoman 

who is on the bus when it cracks up 

and collects enough from the insurance. 

From mops to Bonwit Teller. 

That story. 

the wife of a rich man was on her deathbed 

and she said to her daughter Cinderella: 

Be devout. Be good. Then I will smile 

down from heaven in the seam of a cloud. 

The man took another wife who had 

two daughters, pretty enough 

but with hearts like blackjacks. 

Cinderella was their maid. 

She slept on the sooty hearth each night 

and walked around looking like Al Jolson. 

Her father brought presents home from town, 

jewels and gowns for the other women 

but the twig of a tree for Cinderella. 

She planted that twig on her mother’s grave 

and it grew to a tree where a white dove sat. 

Whenever she wished for anything the dove 

would dropp it like an egg upon the ground. 

The bird is important, my dears, so heed him. 
Next came the ball, as you all know. 

It was a marriage market. 

The prince was looking for a wife. 

All but Cinderella were preparing 

and gussying up for the event. 

Cinderella begged to go too. 

Her stepmother threw a dish of lentils 

into the cinders and said: Pick them 

up in an hour and you shall go. 

The white dove brought all his friends; 

all the warm wings of the fatherland came, 

and picked up the lentils in a jiffy. 

No, Cinderella, said the stepmother, 

you have no clothes and cannot dance. 

That’s the way with stepmothers. 
Cinderella went to the tree at the grave 

and cried forth like a gospel singer: 

Mama! Mama! My turtledove, 

send me to the prince’s ball! 

The bird dropped down a golden dress 

and delicate little slippers. 

Rather a large package for a simple bird. 

So she went. Which is no surprise. 

Her stepmother and sisters didn’t 

recognize her without her cinder face 

and the prince took her hand on the spot 

and danced with no other the whole day. 
As nightfall came she thought she’d better 

get home. The prince walked her home 

and she disappeared into the pigeon house 

and although the prince took an axe and broke 

it open she was gone. Back to her cinders. 

These events repeated themselves for three days. 

However on the third day the prince 

covered the palace steps with cobbler’s wax 

and Cinderella’s gold shoe stuck upon it. 

Now he would find whom the shoe fit 

and find his strange dancing girl for keeps. 

He went to their house and the two sisters 

were delighted because they had lovely feet. 

The eldest went into a room to try the slipper on 

but her big toe got in the way so she simply 

sliced it off and put on the slipper. 

The prince rode away with her until the white dove 

told him to look at the blood pouring forth. 

That is the way with amputations. 

They just don’t heal up like a wish. 

The other sister cut off her heel 

but the blood told as blood will. 

The prince was getting tired. 

He began to feel like a shoe salesman. 

But he gave it one last try. 

This time Cinderella fit into the shoe 

like a love letter into its envelope. 
At the wedding ceremony 

the two sisters came to curry favor 

and the white dove pecked their eyes out. 

Two hollow spots were left 

like soup spoons. 
Cinderella and the prince 

lived, they say, happily ever after, 

like two dolls in a museum case 

never bothered by diapers or dust, 

never arguing over the timing of an egg, 

never telling the same story twice, 

never getting a middle-aged spread, 

their darling smiles pasted on for eternity. 

Regular Bobbsey Twins. 

That story.

Poem – Cockroach – Anne Sexton

Roach, foulest of creatures, 

who attacks with yellow teeth 

and an army of cousins big as shoes, 

you are lumps of coal that are mechanized 

and when I turn on the light you scuttle 

into the corners and there is this hiss upon the land. 

Yet I know you are only the common angel 

turned into, by way of enchantment, the ugliest. 

Your uncle was made into an apple. 

Your aunt was made into a Siamese cat, 

all the rest were made into butterflies 

but because you lied to God outrightly- 

told him that all things on earth were in order- 

He turned his wrath upon you and said, 

I will make you the most loathsome, 

I will make you into God’s lie, 

and never will a little girl fondle you 

or hold your dark wings cupped in her palm. 
But that was not true. Once in New Orleans 

with a group of students a roach fled across 

the floor and I shrieked and she picked it up 

in her hands and held it from my fear for one hour. 

And held it like a diamond ring that should not escape. 

These days even the devil is getting overturned 

and held up to the light like a glass of water.